Issue 3

︎What I’m Working On︎Dana Karwas ︎What I’m Working On︎Dana Karwas ︎What I’m Working On︎Dana Karwas



Image by Aleksa Milojevic, Amelia Gates, and Samantha Hrusovsky, 2022



What I’m Working On
Dana Karwas

INT. ZERO-G AIRCRAFT HANGAR, PORTSMOUTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT—DAY.

DANA KARWAS and ARIEL EKBLAW, professors of the THE MECHANICAL ARTIFACT: ULTRA SPACE class at the Yale School of Architecture, present the TERRA COSMA SPACE SUIT designed by THE STUDENTS, aka YALE-O-NAUTS, to a group of entranced ZERO-G AGENTS. They are preparing for an hour-long test flight to evaluate the choreography, poetics, and engineering of the suit. Multiple, colorful components are laid out on a table: An amulet, a moss-clad silicone headpiece, a Spiderman chest mechanism, Velcro pockets, leather belts, leather straps, climbing rope, carabiners, fabric, inflatable arm sleeves, woven skirts, a needle with thread, braided fabric. EMILY JUDSON ’22, the primary flier, will change into the suit on board. WAI HIN WONG ’24, the secondary flier, will assist her on the plane. VIGNESH HARI KRISHNAN ’22 is the back-up flier and ground support.

DANA
The skirt has two layers. It also snaps together with Velcro, so that this fabric, and the lower woven layer, will flow a little bit. We’re looking to get maximum flowiness.
(to EMILY)
Can you rotate it a little bit? Now you’ll see that the front has some components attached to it. This is a mechanism.
(to WAI HIN)
I’m going to have you jump up with the mechanism. It’s sewn on here, here, and here with a piece of silicone padding between. Why don’t you step in.

WAI HIN
You can pull it—
SNAP!
—it will pull it up. And it can be expanded. Then when you press this...

ARIEL
Can you speak up a little bit?

WAI HIN
Oh—yes. When you pull it up the garment, there’s a button for the release, the force. When you press it, it will expand, because there is a fan.

ARIEL
Speak up a little bit.

WAI HIN
Okay, sorry, sorry, sorry. This, right here.
(gestures to the chest mechanism)

DANA
It expands.

WAI HIN
Theoretically, it would expand. Yes.



Image by Wai Hin Wong, 2022

ARIEL
Show them where you expect the expansion to happen. Because what they want to look for is what to pay attention to in-flight, if something goes wrong.

WAI HIN
Okay.

ARIEL
Show them where the suit is expanding.

WAI HIN
When you press—

ZERO-G AGENT 1
Wait: So the fan is supposed to be blowing air down into those pockets?

ARIEL
Yes. Yeah.
(pauses)
Same pockets as the...  

ZERO-G AGENT 1
So–this is a... motor?

WAI HIN
Yeah.

Everyone laughs.

DANA
It’s just a really sophisticated motor…. 

ARIEL
We’re not really expecting a dramatic effect. But yes, it basically makes it easier for that string actuation mechanism to happen in those channels, that are basically the duct tape channels.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Are you planning on trying to expand it during the flight?

ARIEL
It might take a little time, so it might be that they learn after WAI HIN wants to turn it on during hyper-g, and then give it the inflation so that it can form during zero-g and kind of catalyze as they go.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Those are the batteries right here?
(points)

WAI HIN
Yeah.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Two batteries, one for each?

DANA
Yeah, one for each fan.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
What kind of batteries are they?

WAI HIN
Two A...

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Double A batteries? Okay.

DANA
Yes.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
I’m just thinking. Because: You’ve got fans in there, which would normally keep the batteries nice and cool, and you’ve put them in pockets. So, I’m not sure how your airflow is going to work. Have you tested that? I mean, do you have enough air actually moving through the fan? I see it ducting out, but I don’t know where you’re pulling the air from. Because they seem pretty tightly tucked into those pockets.

ARIEL
The fan is only in these two pockets, with these open flaps...

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Oh, that’s—okay.

DANA
Yes.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
They’re covered, too, but they're not contained...
(pauses)
But. Gosh. Okay, so if they were—those are just battery packs. Got it.

ARIEL
Yes.

DANA
And then there’s a leather belt that is worn here, that EMILY is holding. Two amulet pieces are tied on, and there’s a belt. EMILY, can we see the belt?

EMILY
Yes. The bigger belt?

DANA
This goes around her waist. And this going to come out and float in one of the drop sequences, and this will be tied on here. And this will be tied to EMILY around the waist. And the idea is: It will spin and open, but it’s all attached.

ZERO-G AGENT 3 
When you say open. How does it open?

WAI HIN  
When it spins, in flight, it creates the force—

ARIEL
The force will open the mechanism.

WAI HIN
—to open the mechanism.

DANA
Yes, a little bit. Hold on. Let me put this... wait… we don’t want that to fall out. Yes. We might have to take that one out.

CLUNK! The mechanism falls out.

ARIEL
The goal is, with the centripetal force, that it does not become all loose like that. The parts are not supposed to...
CLUNK!
(to DANA)
I think that was because he’s using his hands to kind of jam it.

ZERO-G AGENT 3
But that’s the amulet in the open configuration?

ARIEL
That’s the open configuration, yeah.

DANA
Copy.

ZERO-G AGENT 3
Pick it up, have it untied. Let it go. Spin it, and it pops open.

DANA
Copy.

ARIEL
Yes. And spin gently.

ZERO-G AGENT 4
Are you wearing this over your flight suit, or under it?

ARIEL
I think: No flight suit. It’s just leggings and undergarments underneath this.

ZERO-G AGENT 4
I’m not sure that...

ARIEL
Yeah, this is custom.

DANA
Yes. And then the last component is the— 

ARIEL
Head piece.

DANA
—the head piece, which has moss attached to silicone. This will be worn for some of the drops by the flier. It attaches over her shoulders like a backpack. And the idea is that it would be next to the flier with climbing rope and a carabiner, so that it will never escape. And she won't have to wear it—

ARIEL 
—constantly. It’s heavy.

DANA
It’s a little heavy.

ARIEL
And we didn't want for her to have to worry about that, with the hyper-g. It will be tethered itself, so she can position herself in front of it for some photography, but she doesn't have to be navigating it on her shoulders in between transitions. So: Tethered with the rope, carabiner to a foot strap. And then available for her to slip her arms into.
(to EMILY)
If you wish, if you feel comfortable during a zero-g with the coach's help. But—

ZERO-G AGENT 2
I will say: Save that one for the end.

ARIEL
Yeah.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
After you’ve acclimated to being in zero-g, but also because it’s going to massively throw off your center of gravity, to have this big weight up here.
(gestures to the headpiece)
And we’ve seen people’s ears not like that at all, once they’ve finally gotten used to knowing where they are. And then to put something on that really makes your head move in a different way than what you think it should—and that’s a lot of weight. How heavy is it? Do you know?

VIGNESH
It’s four gallons of silicone.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
(teasing)
That’s not a weight. So—

VIGNESH
(smiling)
Four pounds, mostly. About four pounds.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
That’s a lot more than four pounds!

VIGNESH
(laughing)
Ten pounds?

ARIEL
That’s why we don't want it anchored on her, because it’s too heavy. We’ll just have it tethered.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Let me see. I’m just—like—so that everybody is aware of—relative to the percentage of her body weight, this is going to be an addition on her. I say definitely don’t do it in the hyper-g. Just do it at the end, I would say, if you feel comfortable doing it. So that if you do have any motion discomfort from it, we’re at the end anyways, and you didn't lose any of your other time. It’ll be the most provocative behavior, motion-sickness-wise.

Everyone laughs.

ARIEL  
And there should be room for it in the storage container.
(to EMILY and WAI HIN)
So, if you want, you can leave it in the storage container for the first half of the flight and then take it out at a straight level break where it’s easy to walk, position it, clip it in, and then experiment with it at the end. Okay. The summary is: Suit with a couple of mechanisms, the belts and this amulet necklace, and then this headpiece.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
You have that on as a necklace as well?

ARIEL
This is going to be attached somewhere, and floating out like that.
 



Image by Aleksa Milojevic, Amelia Gates, and Samantha Hrusovsky, 2022


ZERO-G AGENT 2
I’m worried about how fragile they are. If you come down there, somebody hits... There’s going to be a problem for you, if you come down on your side or something. Is that going to break?

ARIEL
They’re pretty... they’re pretty durable. You can feel it. It's pretty strong, pretty potent resin. It’s not PLA.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Okay. Yeah.

ARIEL
I'm not too worried about that one breaking. This one when it’s open, is a little bit more—


 

Image by Aleksa Milojevic, Amelia Gates, and Samantha Hrusovsky, 2022


ZERO-G AGENT 2
Just watch the pointy ends.

ARIEL
Yeah.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Because you don't want to—
(he touches the headpiece)
That one’s pretty solid.

ZERO-G AGENT 1
Yeah, I can see that.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
And if it does, we'll put it away.

ZERO-G AGENT 1
Yeah, if you fall on it.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Just be aware of it when you’re moving. And that's going to be on the whole time? Or are you only going to put on the belt when you're ready to do the actuation?

DANA
This could be on the whole time. We have a pocket for the little one.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Okay.

DANA
And this one's attached.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
It just stays.

DANA
Yeah. Well, I don't know if we're going to have her spin that, but this one's more... we only have one piece.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Who's wearing this, is it you that's wearing it?
(looks at EMILY, who nods)
Okay. And how heavy is—
(He lifts it)
Oh, that's not bad.

ARIEL
And it's on the chest up high, not on the back. And we've added some padded silicone to make sure that that doesn't...

ZERO-G AGENT 2
That was a nice touch. And this thing?

DANA
Oh, this thing.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
The thing that you're doing as well.

ARIEL
Arm sleeves.

DANA
Yeah. These are the arm sleeves.
(to EMILY)
You want to demonstrate? I think that's straight.

ZERO-G AGENT 3
So I’m still waiting for the pressure.

DANA
This is a reconfigured life vest. 

ZERO-G AGENT 2
I recognize it. That's why I was so interested in knowing what it was.

DANA
It's being repurposed for this flight. it will live on EMILY's arm, and she will blow it up in flight, and it will expand. And then there's a release.

ZERO-G AGENT 3
No more pressurized container, right?

ARIEL
Are you guys still using the pressurized cylinders at all?

DANA
No.

ARIEL
Great, I'm happy.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
You practiced that, blowing it up and releasing it?

DANA
Hold on. Who was blowing on it before? You know it the best!

Everyone laughs.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
I know how to inflate and deflate them! I’m just asking if you guys know how to do this, if you're going to be the one on the flight.

VIGNESH
Blow inside and then press the thing— 

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Press the thing on the inside.

DANA
Yeah.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
Yeah, we have those too, so.

DANA
So this time it's actually being used, hopefully.

ZERO-G
We have to actually do them every year, we have to inflate them, and know how to push your pinky inside to deflate.

DANA 
Okay.

ZERO-G AGENT 2
There's a lot going on though. So you have a lot of—

ARIEL
Yeah, a lot of moving parts.




Image by Wai Hin Wong, 2022


Dr. Ariel Ekblaw directs the MIT Space Exploration Initiative, a team of 50+ students, faculty and staff building and flying advanced technology for space exploration; Ariel is also the founding CEO of Aurelia Institute, a hybrid space architecture research institute and venture incubation studio. Through this connected ecosystem, she strives to bring humanity’s space exploration future to life. Ekblaw graduated with a B.S. in Physics, Mathematics and Philosophy from Yale University and designed a novel space architecture habitat for her MIT PhD in autonomously self-assembling space structures. Her research work and the labs she leads build towards future habitats and space stations in orbit around the Earth, Moon, and Mars. Ariel is the author/editor of Into the Anthropocosmos: A Whole Space Catalog from the MIT Space Exploration Initiative (MIT Press 2021). She serves on the NASA Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium (LSIC) Executive Committee, guiding and shaping the coming decade of burgeoning activity on the moon. Ariel has had the rare honor and pleasure of working directly on space hardware that now operates on the surface of Mars and is leading MIT's return to the moon. Ariel’s work has been featured in WIRED (March 2020 cover story), MIT Technology Review, Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, CNN, NPR, PRI’s Science Friday, IEEE and AIAA proceedings, and more.

Dana Karwas is an artist whose sculptures and research investigate new, human reference frames for dimensional information. Dana is Director of the Center for Collaborative Arts and Media (CCAM) at Yale and is a Critic at the Yale School of Architecture teaching courses related to mechanized perception, space architecture, and inverting our relationship to the cultural forms of our time. She holds an MPS from Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and has a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Kansas. Her upcoming short film about the future of the anthropocosmos, Terra Cosma, will premiere in New Haven, Connecticut in February 2023.